Lyrics from “Vingança” by José Maria de Abreu and Francisco Matoso; recorded by Gastão Formenti (1935)
Lá na beira do roçado // Out at the farmland’s edge
Onde a tristeza não vem // Where sorrow doesn’t reach
Eu vivia sossegado // I lived so serenely
Com a viola do meu lado // With my viola by my side
Mais feliz do que ninguém // Happier than anyone
Numa festa no arraiá // At a party, at the fairgrounds
Vi dois óio (olhos) me oiá (olhar) // I saw two eyes gazing at me
Decidi no improviso // I made an improvised move
Ela me deu um sorriso // She gave me a smile
E comigo foi morá // And went to live with me
Nunca mais fui cantadô (cantador) // Nevermore was I a troubadour
E a viola descansô (descansou) // And my viola reposed
Eu vivia pra caboca (cabocla) // I lived for the cabocla
Eu vivia pra caboca // I lived for the cabocla
Só pensava em meu amô (amor) // I thought only of my love
Nunca fui feliz assim // I’ve never been so happy
Eu mesmo disse pra mim // I said to myself
Pensei que a felicidade // I thought this happiness
Pensei que a felicidade // I thought this happiness
Não pudesse tê (ter) um fim // Could never end
Mas um dia a marvada (malvada) // But one day the shrew
Foi-se embora e me esqueceu // Ran off and forgot me
Com um caboco decidido // With a determined caboclo
Juca Antônio, um conhecido // Juca Antônio, a well-known
cantadô mais do que eu // Troubadour, more than I
Já cansado de chorá // Already tired of crying
Eu saí a procurá // I went out in search of
A caboca que um dia // The cabocla that one day
Levô (levou) minha alegria // Took my joy away
E eu jurei de me vingá // And I swore I’d take revenge
Numa festa fui cantá// I went to sing at a fair
E a mulata tava lá // And the mulata was there
Juro por Nossa Senhora // I swear by Our Lady
Juro por Nossa Senhora // I swear by Our Lady
Que a caboca e quis matá // That I wanted to kill the cabocla
Mas fiquei sem respirá// But I was left breathless
Quando vi ela dançá// When I saw her dancing
Ela tava tão bonita // She was so lovely
Ela tava tão bonita // She was so lovely
Que esqueci de me vingá // That I forgot to take revenge
— Commentary —
In 1930, Gastão Formenti, alongside Carmen Miranda, became the first Brazilian singer to sign a radio contract. Electrical recording technology was introduced in Brazil in 1927, and at the dawn of the 1930s the national radio and recording industries were poised for a boom. Formenti became one of the early stars of that boom. He was a tremendously popular romantic singer that decade, specializing in “melancholy waltzes and nostalgic songs,” according to a short profile in the review Phono-Arte, the first Brazilian publication focused on music and the recording industry, in print from 1928-’31.
Formenti was born to Italian immigrants in 1894 in the interior of São Paulo, and in this song he employs the caipira (hillbilly) accent associated with that region and the countryside in general. This style, smattered with more Italian-immigrant dialect, became famous a few decades later in sambas by another rural-São-Paulo-born son of Italians, Adoniran Barbosa. I’ve italicized the words/word endings that are sung this way: “oiá” instead of “olhar”; “marvada” instead of “malvada,” for instance. Cabocla technically means someone of mixed-blood, with indigenous heritage, but also came to be used just to refer to country folk, as seems to be the case in this song.
Formenti was also an accomplished painter (as the photo above highlights), and after 1941 he began painting more and singing less, exhibiting some of his works in museums in Brazil and abroad.
José Maria Abreu and Francisco Matoso together composed dozens of tremendously popular romantic songs in the 1930s, including one of Brazil’s — and Francisco Alves‘s — all-time favorites, “Boa Noite Amor.” Such slow waltzes and romantic ballads reigned in Brazil in the 1930s; in the ’40s, they were displaced by the more easily danced samba-canção.
Lyrics from “Na estrada da vida” by Wilson Batista (1929), recorded by Luis Barbosa (1933)
Todo homem carrega sua cruz // Every man bears his cross
Na estrada da vida // On the road of life
Que é longa e sem luz // That’s long and dark
Sou mais infeliz que outro qualquer // I’m unhappier than the next guy
Tenho um contrapeso, é de uma mulher // I have an extra weight, it’s a woman’s
(o destino assim quer) //(That’s how fate wants it)
Com desdém vive pra me criticar // With disdain, she lives to criticize me
Teu orgulho algum dia há de acabar // Some day her pride will run out
Eu sei que de mim tu não tens dó // I know that you don’t pity me
A culpa é minha, eu podia viver só // It’s my fault, I could live alone
(Mas é que todo, todo, todo…)// (But it’s just that every, every, every)
Deus é justo, e eu não te rogo praga // God is just, and I don’t wish a plague on you
O que se faz aqui, aqui mesmo se paga // What’s done here is paid for right here
Caminho pela estrada sem ter luz // I walk along the road without any light
Vou pagando os meus pecados // I just go along paying for my sins
Carregando a minha cruz // Bearing my cross
As Jairo Severiano points out in Uma história da música popular brasileira, all of the greatest voices from Brazil’s Época de Ouro (1930s, ’40s and ’50s), with the exception of Vicente Celestino,recorded sambas. These singers included Orlando Silva, Francisco Alves, and Silvio Caldas. But several radio crooners specialized particularly in sambas, offering beautiful renditions that exemplified how the blossoming genre ought to be sung. These singers included Mario Reis, Ciro Monteiro, Vassourinha, Araci de Almeida – and Luis Barbosa.
Mario Reis was the first to achieve resounding success in the early ’30s with sambas recorded in a colloquial style, rather than the over-dramatized formality of romantic songs of the period. Shortly afterward, when Reis was at his peak, Luis Barbosa appeared on the scene. Barbosa adopted a similar style to Reis’s, while incorporating perfectly timed breaks and beating the rhythm on a straw hat, which, on top of being charming, proved easier to handle than a heavier pandeiro. These trappings made Barbosa an immediate crowd pleaser, beginning with his appearance at age 21 on the variety shows Esplêndido Programa and Programa Casé. Renowned Brazilian music critic Lúcio Rangel said of Luis Barbosa: “He was the most extraordinary of all samba singers. He possessed disconcerting rhythm, rare musicality, and he transformed the sambas he sang, adding his extra special touch.” Mario Lago, another of Barbosa’s illustrious fervent admirers, thought Luis Barbosa was at his best on stage, accompanied by a good pianist; Lago felt Barbosa stiffened up in the recording studio.
Barbosa died of tuberculosis at age 28, and while it’s tough to come by records of his performances, he left behind nearly 40 recordings, including “Seja breve” (by Noel Rosa, 1933); “No tabuleiro da baiana” in a duet with Carmen Miranda (by Ary Barroso, 1936), and “Lalá e Lelé” (by Jaime Brito and Manezinho Araújo, 1937), along with this 1933 recording.
Barbosa was so admired by the early ’30s that when he surprised Wilson Batista on 28 April 1933, telling him that he had recorded this song, Wilson, elated, proceeded to go out and get totally plastered. He was arrested, but upon explaining why he was celebrating, he made friends with the officer who had arrested him, who even went on to give Wilson a little money.
This song was special for Wilson Batista because it was his first samba performed for the public in Rio. (His first to be recorded was “Por favor vá embora,” recorded in 1932.) Batista moved from his hometown of Campos dos Goytacazes to Rio de Janeiro in 1929, and began to hang out and get odd jobs around the Teatro de Revista (like Vaudeville theaters), where he dreamed of becoming a tap dancer. At the theater he had the chance to show this composition to Araci Cortes, who performed the song in 1929.
Main sources for this post: Uma história da música popular brasileira by Jairo Severiano, and Wilson Baptista: O samba foi sua glória by Rodrigo Alzuguir.
Recording: Victor – 28 April 1933, released in December 1933; Piano: Mário Travassos de Araújo, with Luis Barbosa on the straw hat for percussion.
Lyrics from “Tempos idos” by Cartola and Carlos Cachaça (1961)
Os tempos idos// Times long past
Nunca esquecidos // Never forgotten
Trazem saudades ao recordar // Fill me with saudades as I remember
É com tristeza que eu relembro // It’s with sorrow that I reminisce about
Coisas remotas que não vêm mais // Long ago affairs that won’t return
Uma escola na Praça Onze // A school in Praça Onze
Testemunha ocular // An eye witness…
E perto dela uma balança// And near it, a scale
Onde os malandros iam sambar // Where the malandros would dance samba
Depois, aos poucos, o nosso samba // Then, little by little, our samba –
Sem sentirmos se aprimorou // without our noticing – grew refined
Pelos salões da sociedade // Into society’s ballrooms
Sem cerimônia ele entrou // Without pomp, it entered
Já não pertence mais à Praça // It doesn’t belong to the Praça anymore
Já não é mais samba de terreiro // It’s no longer samba de terreiro
Vitorioso ele partiu para o estrangeiro // Victorious, it departed for abroad
E muito bem representado // And very well represented
Por inspiração de geniais artistas // By the inspiration of brilliant artists
O nosso samba, humilde samba // Our samba – humble samba –
Foi de conquistas em conquistas // Went from one triumph to another
Conseguiu penetrar no Municipal // Was even able to penetrate the Municipal (Theatre)
Depois de percorrer todo o universo // And after crossing the entire universe
Com a mesma roupagem que saiu daqui // In the same trappings as it left here
Exibiu-se para a duquesa de Kent no Itamaraty // Put on a show for the Duchess of Kent in Itamarati
— Commentary —
“Um dos julgadores não devia gostar de mim ou de Cartola. Deu zero, e a contagem era 1 a 5.” [One of the judges must have had something against me or Cartola. He gave us a 0 on a scale of 1 to 5.]
— Carlos Cachaça commenting on this samba’s loss in Mangueira’s 1961 samba selection process.
This samba by Cartola and Carlos Cachaça traces a nostalgic history of the genre, contemplating the more commercial direction it had taken by the beginning of the 1960s.
The pair composed the samba for Carnaval 1961, at the urging of some of Mangueira’s head honchos, who wanted Cartola more involved with the school he’d helped to found decades earlier. But the song lost in the school’s Carnaval samba selection to an easily forgotten samba with a faster beat. Disheartened, Cartola swore off composing sambas-de-enredo for good.
At the time, Cartola was renewing his ties with Mangueira after having all but vanished from the morroand Rio de Janeiro’s samba scene in the late 1940s and early ’50s. A succession of misfortunes had led him away from Mangueira: In 1946, at 38, he had a life-threatening case of meningitis, which left him incapacitated for about a year (and inspired his samba “Deus, grande deus“); shortly after, he lost his wife Deolinda. He moved away from Mangueira to Caju with a stormy new love interest, Donária, leaving even his guitar behind. He only made his way back to his old neighborhood when he began his best-known romance, with Zica, whom he’d grown up with in Mangueira — and who was Carlos Cachaça’s wife’s sister.
Meanwhile, in the decades that followed Mangueira’s founding in 1928, samba had grown increasingly popular as a national genre, in step with the quick expansion of the radio industry in Brazil. Through the voices of radio stars like Francisco Alves and Mario Reis, sambas composed in Rio’s poorest morros became popular among middle-class listeners in Rio’s upscale Zona Sul and across Brazil (see “Divina dama” and “Perdão meu bem,” both Cartola, below). Almost all financial returns, unsurprisingly, went to these radio crooners and industry insiders who made dubious deals to purchase the sambas; the composers continued to live in deep poverty as their songs rippled over radio waves across the vast country. One of several odd jobs Cartola kept to earn a meager living was as a painter, which is why he wore the famous hat responsible for his nickname.
Noel Rosa was also a crucial figure in bringing elements of samba from the morros to Rio’s more upscale neighborhoods. And with the increasing popularity of the genre among well-heeled Brazilians, more middle-class composers like Ary Barroso, João de Barro, Lamartine Babo, Dorival Caymmi and Assis Valente emerged into the samba spotlight, and artists like Carmen Miranda popularized their sambas abroad. This further reduced the space for composers from Rio’s samba seedbeds.
Marginalized in this regard in the ascension of the genre they’d helped create, sambistas do morro also quickly lost any say in the same samba schools they had founded. When the municipal government of Rio de Janeiro included the samba schools’ Carnaval parades on its official calendar in 1935, it set in motion a process that gradually took the spirited communal parade in a dramatically direction from its origins in Praça Onze. In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the desfile became increasingly commercial, with a greater focus on promoting the artists of each schools’ floats and ultimately the schools’ financiers, rather than local samba composers.
What’s more, in the early ’40s, Praça Onze — where the first samba school displays took place in the late 1920s and early ’30s, and where malandro sambistas would hold dance-offs on the scale Cartola mentions in this song, a weigh station for animal-traction vehicles — was destroyed to make way for an expansion of Avenida Presidente Vargas, inaugurated in 1944.
The “school at Praça Onze” that Cartola mentions in the song is GRES Estácio de Sá, which started out as Deixa Falar. It’s widely recognized as Rio’s pioneer samba school, whose sambistas modified the genre in the late 1920s to make it easier to samba and parade to – “samba de sambar do Estácio.” Ismael Silva, one of the most prominent samba composers from the school, also took credit for for the name “samba school” itself, recalling that when they founded Deixa Falar, there was a school nearby, and he said, “We’ll be the professors of samba!” While Portela was out the Central train line in distant Oswaldo Cruz, Mangueira and Deixa Falar were friendly neighbors near the praça: “We would parade on Sundays of Carnaval at Praça Onze and, on Mondays, the sambistas from Estácio would come up the morro do Mangueira; on Tuesdays, Mangueira would go down to Estácio. It was a great friendship,” Cartola recalled.
The destruction of Praça Onzewas symbolic of the fate of composers like Cartola during those years. Largely brushed aside by the music industry, they also saw their Carnaval coopted, with wealthy big-wigs running the show that had begun with ragtag Carnaval corps parading on their own. More and more attention was focused on middle-class Brazilians and tourists, and to appeal to this wider, wealthier audience, schools favored faster, noisier songs (in contrast to more traditional sambas like “Tempos idos”) – the precursors of the incredibly uptempo sambas-de-enredo of the schools today.
A more explicit musical expression of the latter phenomenon can be found in the samba “Terreno baldio” by Marimbondo:
Era um terreno baldio / Que eu mesmo capinei / Com um surdo mal feito de lata / Uma escola de samba fundei / Usei corda na avenida / No desfile principal / Esquentava a bateria / Com pedaço de jornal / A minha escola cresceu / E o terreiro hoje tem cobertura / Quem ficou pequenino fui eu / Diante da nova estrutura / Eu quem fundou a escola / Entre trancos e barrancos / Na galeria de sócios / No lugar do meu nome tem um branco / E vou contar a minha mágoa, minha minha dor / Fui barrado na porta da escola que sou fundador (It was an unused plot of land/ That I myself cleared/ And with a crude surdo made from a can/ Founded a samba school/I paraded in the avenue/ in the main parade/ I warmed up the battery/ With a piece of newspaper/ My school grew/ And the terreiro today has a roof/ I´m the one who grew smaller/ Before that new structure/ I who found (sic) the school/ by fits and starts/ In the gallery of associates/ There’s a blank space where my name should be/ And I´ll tell you my wound, my pain / I was barred at the door of the samba school that I founded).
As “Tempos idos” makes reference to, Portela was Carnaval champion in 1959, and representatives of the school were indeed invited to Itamaraty, Brazil’s foreign ministry, to perform samba for the Duchess of Kent.
Cartola and Carlos Cachaça adopted an almost admiring tone in parts of this song, as if they were slightly proud of samba’s success, but much more deeply saddened by the route and costs of that success. This was the context in which Cartola made a final attempt, with Carlos Cachaça, at composing a samba-de-enredo for his school.
Shortly after, Cartola opened the restaurant Zicartola together with Zica. Though it only functioned from 1963 to 1965, it immediately became a bastion for sambistas of Cartola’s stock, and inspired cultural gatherings and groups like “A Voz do Morro” which were in part responsible for a ressurgence in popularity of samba do morro.
More explanations of terms in the song below:
Praça Onze and its terreiros – as this post mentions – served as the birthplace of carioca samba. The homes in neighborhoods surrounding the praça comprised a large community Afro-Brazilians who had come from Bahia after the end of slavery in 1888, along with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Heitor dos Prazeres famously said, “Praça Onze was a miniature of Africa,” which led many to refer to the region as Rio’s “Little Africa.” The denomination of Little Africa came to refer to the area from Praça Onze (Cidade Nova) to modern-day Praça Mauá.
Terreiros Terreiro refers to the large patio-like spaces – usually with earthen floors – in these homes where composers would spend sometimes days on end rehearsing their latest sambas and experimenting with new compositions. Terreiro also refers to the similarly characterized space for Afro-Brazilian religious rituals. In the beginning, samba and macumba were almost inextricably linked. One of Carlos Cachaça’s sambas from the late 1920s went, “Eu fui a um samba na casa de Tia Fé/ de samba virou macumba/de macumba candomblé” (I went to a samba at Tia Fé’s/from samba it turned into macumba/ from macumba, candomblé). Originally, samba schools had Orixás that were considered their protectors, which their particular beats paid salute to: Mangueira was Oxóssi, for example, and Salgueiro, Xangô.
In the area surrounding Praça Onze, composers gathered in the terreiros in homes of several Bahian women who were immortalized in the samba world as the tias baianas (Bahian aunties), most famously Tia Ciata. The mixture of musical influences they played around with there — which included deeply African percussion and song alongside melodic and harmonic influences of contemporary European French and Italian composition — came together as samba carioca. (These tias included the mothers of two of Rio’s earliest samba composers: Tia Amélia do Aragão, mother of Donga, and Tia Perciliana de Santo Amaro, mother of João da Baiana.)
Tellingly, as samba and carnaval became more of a lucrative industry, the terreiros took on a more middle-class, secular denomination: “quadras,” or courts.
Scale The scale the song refers to was one of ten installed in the city in response to a 1901 decree that aimed to control overweight animal-drawn carriages. The scale in Praça Onze became better known for serving as a stage for samba competitions, and its name might have provided some symbolic meaning as well, as it was used to “weigh” who was better in their batucada and swing.
Main sources for this post: Cartola: os tempos idos by Marilia T. Barboza; Zicartola, by Mauricio Barros de Castro; Dicionário da História Social do Samba by Nei Lopes and Luiz Antonio Simas; and Uma história de música popular brasileira, by Jairo Severiano.